In March of this year, I published an interview with Elie Dekel, President of Saban Brands, in which he asked the question: “How do we as providers play with children who walk around with a screen in their pocket? How do we connect with children who can access play and entertainment on demand? How does the storytelling industry deal with these children as they morph into 18-34 year olds who expect ever richer, deeper and broader brand extensions?”
That insightful quote by Elie came to mind this week when I read a fascinating article by Brian Stelter of The New York Times entitled “Same Time, Same Channel? TV Woos Kids Who Can’t Wait.” Here is the opening paragraph: “When Eric Nelson’s 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and 10-year-old son, Asa, discover that they cannot rewind or fast-forward a TV show, they are perplexed — and their father is, too. It is hard to explain the limitations of live television to children who have grown up in an on-demand world.”
The article points out that children today expect to control their media and not be controlled by it. They expect to be able to watch what they want when they want. The whole idea that one has to watch what the network wants you to watch when they want you to watch it is very…well…20th century.
Those who are feeding children’s expectations of on demand watching are new media companies like Amazon and Netflix which provide programming on streaming video. Disney, Nintendo, Wii U and others are getting into the act as well. Even the networks are following suit by providing shows on line before they appear on television.
One of the interesting keys to why media on demand is so popular with children is that, according to the article, kids are “natural binge viewers.” They like to see the same show or character over and over.
In fact, “According to Amazon, 65 percent of the most-replayed programs on its streaming service, Prime Instant Video, are shows for children. Within the Amazon Kindle’s subscription service for children ages 3 to 8, called FreeTime Unlimited, nearly half of all video views are second-, third- or fourth-time views.”
Whether you approve of binge viewing or not; it seems to me that streaming video is cementing itself as the keystone of transmedia storytelling. If getting children to become deeply engaged fans of your intellectual property is your goal then providing availability on an “all you can eat” basis is a solid strategy.